Switch Off Your Amazon Alexa If You Are Working From Home!

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Weeks after the widespread of the coronavirus, countries continue to go into lockdown mode for more weeks to come. People are advised to stay indoors to practise social distancing and continue to work from home. But work from home practice has its own type of side effects and challenges to deal with, which could have a serious consequences on your professional life.

In the era of internet and gadgets, we are surrounded by various types of gadgets round the clock. Besides smartphones, smart home appliances many of us use various personal assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa or Google Homes as a way to help us make our day to day life easier. But quite recently a UK based law firm, Mishcon de Reya LLP, the same firm which advised Princess Diana during her divorce, asked it’s employees to mute or turn off any smart speakers such as Alexa or Google’s Voice Assistant when they talk about matters related to their clients.

The advised list of devices that needs to be turned off includes any visual or voice-enabled device including Ring, a video product owned by Amazon, baby monitors, and even closed-circuit TVs.

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According to Joe Hansen, partner and person that heads firms cybersecurity efforts accepted that they were being a little paranoid. He added that although they have trust in these organizations, they prefer not taking any risks.

The requests to firm employees came after an announcement made by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on March 20 about the coronavirus and asked his citizens to stay home as much as possible.

Why the Paranoia

Amazon has already been accused of keeping transcripts of conversations made between a customer and Alexa even after the recording of the conversation is deleted. In 2019, they confirmed that Alexa records and stores all the conversations made between it and the user. Unbeknownst to the user, Alexa records everything said by the users after she is activated through a voice command. The information remains with Amazon until the user manually deletes it. A recent study shows that devices like Alexa and Google assistant can activate accidentally for almost 1.5 to 19 times a day.

This is not the only time Amazon has operated in the grey area of privacy policies. In 2019, it was discovered that Alexa’s “Remember Me” feature did not delete the information stored until the user called Amazon’s customer service to delete the entire profile. Amazon reported this as a bug and said that they have fixed the issue since then.

The issues of violation of user privacy extend to other organizations as well. Various tech companies have been under fire for violating user privacy policies by listening to unauthorized conversations to improve their AI Algorithms. Google was also accused of collecting personal user data and sharing it with advertisers to form real-time advertisements in 2019. The company now offers users a choice where users can select if they want to share their voice recordings with the tech giant.

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Work from Home: Privacy Impact

While concern for privacy rises due to increased use of AI-powered devices, it has become challenging to deal with it in these times of self-isolation. When at home, most of the people are surrounded by such smart devices that help them ease up their daily life. It would be problematic and might disrupt our way of living as we have to constantly turn off/on such devices every time we discuss a sensitive topic.

While being on a voice or video call we tent to discuss confidential information without realising the surrounding conditions. In a smart home setup where things are connected with each other deactivating smart speakers or smart video calling devices could lead us to a lot more challenges as well.

With the widespread pandemic, employees working in companies belonging to the financial industry may struggle to maintain confidentiality in a work from home environment. Experts advise that people must factor the duration of work from home and set up their home office at a place that can’t have such concerns and challenges to tackle.

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